TED Conversations

Tosca Killoran

Digital Learning Coach, NIST International School


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How do you help engender a culture of thinking within your learning community?

As educators, it is easy to get caught up in the content we need to cover or the myriad of tasks we need to fulfill; but, isn't it just as important for our students to learn the thinking skills involved in order to strive for understanding, to figure out the complexities of ethics, or to seek truth? How do we encourage and motivate thinking with our learning communities? How do we document, challenge and celebrate student thinking? How do we engender thinking as a habit of mind within our students and our classrooms?


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  • May 12 2012: You have posed perhaps the most quintessential question for a teacher Tosca. It is the difference between a deliverist teacher and a gifted developer of thinking skills in students. I believe we need to stimulate the ability to think when ever we can and then produce activity and exercises that give opportunity for thinking skills to be practised. At first this may need to be steered in the form of introducing concepts, actions and possibilities. I am always amazed at how quickly students take up the reigns of their own thinking capacity when they are introduced and supported and VALUED within that process.

    I love that you express passion about this area of developing a students capacity to be effective within their own learning process, never lose it. Your own personal passion for the subject drives the mechanisms of thought provoking experience for your learners, build in learning for them that involves immersion of learning in the real world, both in and out side of their classroom. Everything, from the journey to a venue or the experience of class preparation for an expert visit or the experience its self can be an oportunity for thinking skills to be developed.

    I wish to strengthen and enable you in what will be an enormously rewarding journey! Go for it Tosca!
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      May 12 2012: Thanks Marie!
      It is interesting how we have the ability within the relative confines of curricula to expand or 'push' for what we find drives us in our practice.

      I wonder if we built thinking routines into our planning and inquiry cycle if we could better assess for deeper and more divergent thinking in our students? I would like the thinking routines that I use, not to become mere activities but tools my students use when faced with a challenge. However, like most tools, we need to learn how to use them properly. If we plan for the direct teaching of the skill, assess for understanding and then provide opportunities for the students to, as you said so well, "take up the reigns" of their own thinking, I think we have provided the perfect gradual release of responsibility for the thinking challenges students face in their educative journeys.

      How do you think we could better value thinking in our classrooms/schools and learning communities? I know teachers value it by the immediate feedback we give our students, but I wonder what the institution could do better to value thinking in its teaching and learning? I recently visited the International School of Amsterdam, and was impressed that students' thinking was displayed on the walls, teachers' brainstorm sessions were up in the staff room, and ways in which children had used their thinking to meet challenges were included in their portfolios... it was clear they had a culture of thinking that was part of the ethos of the school. I wonder how teachers can take from that model and advocate at their own schools to value thinking in more explicit ways?
      Thanks for your post- it is report writing time so I have stolen a few moments to write you back!

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